“Seeing is believing… Or seeing is knowing..?” Guest post by Brad Patterson


Twitter is so cool! Two months ago I’d never even tweeted, nor had I blogged.  Now I have an awesome PLN, and I’m collaborating with Vladimira, a great new friend from Slovakia on this 3 part series on:  “PERCEPTION IN CLASSROOM”.

We hope it creates a few sparks, and will give us all a momentary step back on all our teaching and connecting techniques in the classroom and in life in general.  We’ll be taking 4 steps along this blog path:

1)   Dig deep into the etymological roots of one of our 5 senses

2)   Ask a few questions about how you use this sense in class

3)   Provide a few social experiments to play with

4)   Finally, V (Vladimira) has come up with a few activities for testing this out in in class


Alright then, let’s start with a familiar image of me and my brothers… the three wise monkeys.


3 wise monkeys


Today we will take a closer look at the monkey in the middle.



PART ONE:   the roots


Did you know that vision and wisdom were once the same word, “weid”?

More than 3500 years ago the meaning of “seeing” was one with the idea of “knowing” in Indo-European.  Since then, this word “weid” has branched out to provide the English words: vision, wisdom, wizard, review, preview, overview, wit, witness, idea, foresight… the list goes on and on, and that’s only English!  See more here:  http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=vision&searchmode=none

“Weid” even trickled down to become the word “The Vedas”, the ancient Sanskrit texts which mean “knowledge”.


From a similar multi-meaning angle, the Chinese character “to want”, (xiang) actually has two other meanings:  “to think” and “to miss someone”. How can so much meaning be packed into one word!?!  Kind of reminds me of trying to teach the word “get” to my students:   “oh yeah… it can really mean anything,  ya know”.

Just because I think it’s sooooo cool, do you notice the little part at the bottom of the above character.  Well it means “heart”, and it is very typically added to any character that deals with emotions.  Historically it even looked more like a heart, though it’s hard to see today.


Is it a eye-opening to realize how deep and connected language is?

Are you surprised that words (or even languages!) that seem so separate all came from the same mommy and daddy, a long long time ago [ in a galaxy far far away… 🙂 ]?

Then again, when taking a closer look, I don’t think it’s really that odd that vision, our most-utilized sense, is so etymologically linked to wisdom.  Let’s peruse a few wise sayings from the ages to sink in a bit more.


“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”


“First attributed to Bernard of Chartres. It was famously uttered by seventeenth-century scientist Isaac Newton . The picture is derived from the Greek mythology where the blind giant Orion carried his servant Cedalion on his shoulders.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standing_on_the_shoulders_of_giants#cite_note-OTSOG-0)


“A teacher sees the world in a par­tic­u­lar way, and it is not only when he is in a school. I am a teacher all the time.”

Christopher Rogers    [this one from @cecielt]


“The eyes sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend”

Henri Bergson (French philosopher)


Beauty is in the eye of the beholder = 情人眼里出西施

(Within lover’s eyes are found the most beautiful of all)


“The eyes have one language everywhere”

George Herbert (English metaphysical poet and clergyman)


PART TWO:  visual attention in class




I’ve heard people say that “attention is the currency of the 21st century”…


bored student






Here’s a great tip from Cecila’s (@cecielt).  In her latest blog entry she addressed how she handles a challenging student (wonderful read by the way):

If I see his eyes wandering when I’m explaining something I’ll call his name or touch his arm and ask him to look at my eyes, look at me” (http://www.teachingvillage.org/2011/03/07/about-mountains-challenges-and-teaching-by-cecilia-lemos/comment-page-1/#comment-5107)


NOW, A FEW QUESTIONS to shake things up before we move on…


1) How do you use this ALL-important connection of SIGHT in class?

2) Do you find your eyes getting soft or hard with certain students?

3) Some days, do you have a hard time looking at your audience, or  wish they would look at you more?

4) How can we better motivate them with our eyes, our visual intention?


Any good stories to share???



And… CUT!….. it looks like that’ll be it for the 500-word blog entry limit for a newbie.  Sorry, but V and I will have to wait until tomorrow to fill you in on the exciting conclusion to VISION, Step 3 and 4!  🙂


Until then, we’d love to know what struck a chord with you and what you find important to share!!  Cheers, b & v   🙂





20 thoughts on ““Seeing is believing… Or seeing is knowing..?” Guest post by Brad Patterson

  1. I love this, Brad! You’re definitely a welcome addition to the blogosphere 🙂

    The whole theme of how senses affect perception is fascinating, and I look forward to seeing how you develop this in coming posts.

    I’m also a word junkie so am looking forward to seeing the roots of more words we commonly use without thinking of them as related.

    Great start!

  2. Awesome article! I found this very interesting, and am looking forward to the conclusion. I am excited to hear the rest of your thoughts. I’m still experimenting with all of these things myself, so would love the input of some more knowledgable teachers! Thanks!

  3. Hi Brad,

    Welcome to the blogosphere! What an interesting sounding beginning to your blogging journey.

    The idea of the interconnected-ness of language and how it is connected to our senses is something I think about a lot at the moment. Not in any very academic or deep way, but using drawing and sounds in the classroom as stimuli.

    I recently read The Language Instinct and have started reading Deutscher’s The Unfolding of Language. Both address the roots of language, but with a respective focus on the roots in our brain(s) and the collective roots of different languages respectively. My lid has certainly been flipped. I’m going to be making a minor, but very important reference to this concept in my talk/workshop at ISTEK, which may make its way to a number of other conferences (Switzerland is also on the agenda for 2011), so I’ll let you know how it goes down.

    Looking forward to parts III and IV!

    Mike =)

  4. Cheers, Mike! And you know I “hear” ya on sounds in class. 🙂

    Stephen Pinker is among my FAV FAV writers. Up there too are John McWhorter who’s a bit more “general public”, and Noam Chomsky… but then it gets into the deeper end of linguistics, unless it’s one of his rockin’ books on human rights and hegemony. 🙂

    Can’t wait to meet up at IATEFL!

  5. Great start Brad!

    Let me warn you that blogging gets addictive. The first chapter in my upcoming book is about vision. I believe people have to have vision in their paths. It’s a certain focus and that’s what every teacher seems to want is to catch the attention of their students and have them focus. However, I think we need to make time for daydreaming. Daydreaming is divine and I absolutely love the mind wandering then traveling back to it’s path, the focus. I don’t think schools really allow time for this but if our students always focused and not exploring then maybe they are not necessarily learning in a natural way. I try to aim for both parts in my class. I like learning stations and classroom environments where students can collaborate and work on various projects and tasks. When they are finished with those they move to others. I have areas where they can even be alone, read a book, or listen to music and study. This helps my focus. I can spend more time helping individual students and when we come together as a group I find my students are very focused. I realize this set-up works mostly in classes with more than an hour. For shorter classes I like students to work in groups and pairs. I am very comfortable speaking to the class for 5 to 10 minute doses. I find that keeps their attention.

  6. Hi Barb- Glad to see another word junkie. It’s endless, I love it. V and I will do our best to keep the series fun. I’m certainly having fun collaborating on it! 🙂

    Hi Kylie- Thanks for stopping by. When we think about it, we are often so material-focused that we forget the art of interaction. I was always inspired by comedians and how they work with silence and space in their routines. Now, the last thing a classroom needs is 100% funny lecture, but drawing from those subtle lessons of the master comics has helped me interact better in the classroom. 🙂

    Shelly! You have vision, girl! And you share that knowledge with all of us. I love your community-driven participation on twitter. Thanks for your encouragement here too… I think I have found a new addiction. 🙂

    As far as day-dreaming goes… umm… oops… I was just daydreaming… 🙂

    You’re 100% right. It has its place to. To steal a comment I just saw by @barbsaka on #eltchat “I think there’s a fundamental diff btn “thinking” silence and “ignoring me” silence”

    In class I would hope to keep students focused at times, and then give them the space they need as well. Lastly, to give you a preview of where V and I want to go with this blog (and where our idea to collaborate was born), I’ll leave you with Depeche Mode:


  7. Brad,

    Great stuff and this was delicious eating!

    It is a mysterious yet beautiful thing, language. Keeps me thinking and on my toes. Never get tired of thinking about it and sucking on it like a lemon drop.

    I’ll add one more about seeing. An old hasidic saying, “The eye cannot see itself”.

    Great start and the highway of possibility is there for your driving….


  8. Welcome to the blogosphere Brad!

    I loved learning about the origin of the word and the curiosities. Like Barb and you I am a word junkie too – love learning new ones and learning more about the ones I already know 🙂

    Being a mostly visual learner myself, I think vision (in both literal and metaphorical aspects) is key. Eye contact connects, creates bonds and trust.

    However, not keeping your eyes on the person who’s speaking not necessarily means you’re not paying attention. During lectures, talks and workshops I rarely look at the speaker. The way my weird mind works makes so that if I look at the person and listen to what he/she is saying I don’t really assimilate it. So I doodle, and take notes (mostly doodle I have to admit) but that is the way I best pay attention to what is being said. Crazy eh? But that way I even complete sentences/thoughts of the speaker, that’s how into it I am. 🙂

    Thank you so much for mentioning me twice in your first ever post! I am chuffed and beyond flattered!!!

    Look forward to reading more posts from you!

    Cheers 🙂


  9. Hi David, Ceci, and David-

    Thanks for your great comments. Language is an amazing living thing. I hope to continue to explore it here, in my life, and everywhere I am because it is my passion. Love sharing with you all here! Cheers, 🙂

    PS @Ceci… i totally hear you on the doodling and not looking. In a large social environment eye connection is a tell-all, at all. 🙂

  10. Hey Brad,
    This is one of the most exciting blogs I’ve read for a while! I’m hanging out for the next one!

    I also echo the many comments before me, engaging vision and sight is very powerful in education.

    I try, especially with beginners, to connect my students with grammar and sentence structures visually. I have done this in the past by colour coding the parts of speech. It’s easy to ‘see’ the grammar then! Building on this, I add in ‘touch’ by having students drag words around in the interactive whiteboard to create sentences (I’m looking forward to hearing about this sense).

    On another note, I’m also interested in hearing others’ experience with how making eye contact with their students affects their learning in classes around the world. I was surprised to find out that several groups of Aboriginal Australians show respect by not making eye contact with their elders. This impacts particular teaching styles, particularly if (like me) eye contact is a key part of developing a relationship.

    That’s enough from me!

  11. Hi Caitlin… keep it coming. That was all great feedback and classroom ideas. I loved the aboriginal australian note too.

    Reminds me of the “fantasy” world of Avatar where they would greet each other with “I see you”. 🙂

    Your color-coded grammar for kids seem brilliant. I do hope that we can all share more here, or on twitter, or anywhere. Having a PLN like this is so enriching. Thanks again for stopping by. More to come TODAY! 🙂

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  14. I join all those before me who are waiting for the next installment – great post!
    You mentioned the word “get” – that causes an infinite amount of trouble for my deaf pupils!
    My pupils cannot daydream during a frontal lesson (which I don’t do much!) because they have to listen with their eyes!

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